Rizvan Rasulov: “We got a chance at the Anti-doping Conference”

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On November 13, Anti-Doping Conference of International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) was held in Astana, Kazakhstan, initiated and organized by the Kazakhstan Weightlifting Federation (KWF). IWF President- Tamash Ajan, General Secretary- Mohammad Jalud, Chairman of the IWF Anti-Doping Commission -Patric Shamash, as well as with the request of International Olympic Comittee, members of the 9 federation’s board of directors (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, China, Moldova, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine) whose weightlifters’ three or more doping tests have been positively reviewed and therefore have been subjected to one year of disqualification as a result of the re-examination of athletes competed in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympic Games, participated in the event. Our country was represented by Rizvan Rasulov, General Secretary of the Azerbaijan Weightlifting Federation (AZE WF). We talked with General Secretary Rizvan Rasulov about the conference, issues and perspectives discussed. We present you his interview:
– What was the aim of the conference?
– The aim was to ensure that the fight against doping is at the highest level, taking all necessary measures and taking appropriate steps. The initiative came by KWF, and welcomed positively by IWF. The participants were 9 countries that were subjected to one year of disqualification. The main topic of the discussion was to reduce the penalty from one year up to 8 months, setting criteria for it, creating serious system of fighting through local federations and anti-doping agencies during this time, and preventing such cases from happening again.
– What were the moments in which you could particularly emphasize it?
– At present, the relevant bodies, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), are working to address the major problems of doping, not only in our own but also in other sports. IWF is very worried because weightlifting is one of the “leading” types in terms of doping. President Tamash Ajan has repeatedly expressed his concern during his speech in Astana. He noted that if such situations persist, the question of whether or not the weightlifting sport presence in the Olympic family would be a serious issue. As AZE WF, we are also worried because weightlifting has always been an integral part of the great sport, the roots go deeper and have great traditions in Azerbaijan. The decision to isolate the Olympics may result in thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people going out of the sport, anyone would not want this and this would be a very sad thing. The IWF works to keep traditions and apply severe sanctions to those who want to prevent it. Mr. Ajan even made a statement that “the IWF currently has a federation of 192 countries. If any federation fails to fight against doping, and if this problem is triggered, and if it does not comply with the required rules, we can also think of removing that country from the IWF, once and for all. Let be 150 member federations, not 192”.
– What was discussed at the conference about Azerbaijan?
– Country difference was not. We all had the same attitude and it was reported that we all had a chance to make the punishment easier. It was noted that it is important for us to take a more serious approach to our business, to continue the fight against doping, and to implement all these mechanisms either federation or state-level for not happening of all cases again.
– What were the specific demands and proposals of IWF about us?
– The requirements are the organization and increasing the number of anti-doping seminars, closely working with the WADA and Azerbaijan National Anti-Doping Agency (AMADA), and most importantly, the full implementation of the demands put forward. During this period, a monitoring group of independent anti-doping experts will arrive in Azerbaijan on a regular basis. If the conditions set forth by the national federation are fulfilled, youth will be allowed to participate in international competitions four months before the end of the disqualification period, and two months before the expiry of the disqualification period, other age groups and official (technical) representatives will be allowed to participate in international competitions. Otherwise, the federation will not be able to participate in international competitions until the end of the disqualification period.
– How do you think, what kind of doping-related work should be done?
– You know, we work with AMADA. In our country weightlifting units operate in the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan , and the Children’s Youth Sports School under the AHITA. Executives at these schools should regularly engage in campaign and propaganda works on doping with coaching staff. Because athletes participating in national competitions are the apprentices of sport schools. If any athlete is found a banned item as a result of an analysis, it will seriously damage the image of the mentioned organizations. The federation will send official information to the higher education institutions of these schools when such circumstances occur. I think that the federation should work together in an integrated system with AMADA, the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan and NOC, to strengthen the struggle against doping and, in particular, campaign and propaganda works among coaching-staff. In this case, one of the important issues is the development of new modern methods in the direction of training high-level athletes without the role of prohibited drugs, jointly with the Azerbaijan State Academy of Physical Culture and Sports, which prepares specialists in physical education and sports. One thing I want to point out is that taking these preparations not only injure the athlete’s body, but also dramatically minimizes his\her mental development. Weightlifting is a kind of sport where the athlete has to act with intellect. Otherwise, no results can be achieved. The previous processes showed this. Looking back, we can see that most of those involved in weightlifting did not use doping. As a result, they achieved excellent results between the ages of 25-35. In this regard, today’s statistics bother us. This is a psychological barrier, and we need to leave behind it and move ahead with dignity.
-What is the international attitude to the activities of the AZE WF?
– Very positive, and I felt it during the conference. As you know, AZE WF has been conducting anti-doping activities since the summer of last year. Tamash Ajan himself also witnessed this during his visit to Baku, and he told quite positive ideas about us. He saw that AZE WF says “no” to doping and shows and proves it with every step. We attach great importance to the psychological side of the work. It’s not easy to take out the idea of “It is impossible to achieve results without doping” from the people’s minds and to convince people that the era of a new, pure struggle has begun. It is a job that requires a great deal of time and effort. In November last year, under the decree of Mr. Ilham Aliev, the anti-doping law came into force and AMADA was established. There is a mechanism, legal basis, foundation, and remaining part is to complete the job.
– There was an opening ceremony in Astana …
– Yes, the opening of the IWF General Secretary’s office was held in the capital. We can now say that there are two centers of weightlifting in the world: the seat of the President in Budapest and the general secretary in Astana. This is a momentum that can boost the development of both Kazakhstan and neighboring countries. Because the distances will shorten and the work and communication will be more comfortable. For me, the main point that I can mention during the opening ceremony was the hanging of the Olympic champion, Azerbaijani Nijat Rahimov’s painted picture on the wall. It’s a great sense of joy. Nijat is ours, our champion, and the fact that he performs on behalf of Kazakhstan does not change much. His result is an example for all our athletes. He is currently in Baku, his homeland. Nijat met with the President of the “Zirve” International Sports Club, in which he took the first steps, as well as the Vice-president of AZE WF-Tofig Heydarov. He expressed his gratitude to him, the club, to all members of the club and all weightlifting family for their roles in his success. We are always delighted with his success, and we will continue to rejoice. Nijat is Azerbaijani, irrespective of the country he represent. I was very proud of seeing his big picture there on the wall.
– Do the activities of AZE WF give an opportunity to decrease a one-year sentence to 8 months?
– Of course. The main international competitions for the next year are the Junior Olympic Games, European Junior Championship and World Senior Championship. The anti-doping policy mechanism of the state is increasingly consolidated and strengthened. Important factors are provided by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan. The federation is working on these opportunities to make the physical, psychological and technical training of our athletes at the highest level. People should believe in us and help us. Azerbaijan is a home of powerful people. The nature of our regions is very suitable for the development of weightlifters. We also attract people to this sport and try to make true champions. We have all our logistics and specialist resources for this. I am convinced that our penalty will be reduced to 8 months and we will be able to start our participation in international competitions.
– Last question: Will national competitions be held during the sentence?
– Yes, there is no problem with this. IWF strives to motivate these nine countries to avoid being discouraged during disqualification. Therefore, it is allowed to organize internal competitions, allowing the preparation to go uninterrupted. Even if we cannot take part in international competitions at least over the next 8 months, there is no obstacle to hold the country championships, cups.